Gabriel Bisset-Smith

What’s your full name?

Gabriel Bisset-Smith.

Where were you born/brought up?

I was born in Ipswich because my parents wanted to raise me in the countryside but my mum was the only black person in the village (literally) and she didn’t like it so we moved straight back to London when I was six months old.

What do you do for a living?

I’m a writer, actor and director.

What’s your ethnicity?

My dad’s from Manchester and my mum’s half Jamaican/Half Scottish.

How did your mum and dad meet?

They shared a flat at art school.


How old were you when you became conscious that people saw you differently? What impact did that have on you?

When I was five or six my mum said I threatened to tell the police she kidnapped me if she didn’t buy me a toy I wanted. I don’t remember that moment but it’s pretty awful. When people find out I’m mixed race it’s usually a huge bonus as they suddenly re-evaluate what they initially thought of me -which is usually that I’m posh and white.

Describe your most memorable moments when you were made aware of being mixed race.

They’re mainly to do with people’s reactions to finding out my mum is my mum. Teachers’ faces would drop and strangers would always think we were taking the piss. Also whenever we went on holiday together she would get stopped at baggage check and I would walk right through. We started to make a joke of it and I’d find us a nice place to eat whilst she got searched.

Do you feel your parents prepared you for life as a mixed race person?

The world sees me as white so there was nothing to prepare. Plus my mum was super young when she had me so she was still working out her relationship with race.

What ignorant comments have you heard about being mixed-race that really rile you?

People would always think my mum was my nanny. A lot of people ask me if I can dance or if I’ve got a big penis. I like to say both are true but that’s nothing to do with race.

What do you wish people who aren’t mixed-race understood?

Everything. In my experience they have a much smaller understanding of the world.

Do you think mixed race people/families are well represented in the media?

In TV commercials a bit. Not really anywhere else.


Back in the late 19th century/early 20th century being mixed race held a stigma, as it was clear proof of interracial relations which was seen as an affront to society’s morals. Do you think it’s easier nowadays to be mixed race or is it more that racism has become subtler?

It’s maybe a bit easier because racism is more hidden (although Trump and Brexit is changing that). As people think I’m white I get to hear a lot of it. People make racist jokes or comments around me, sometimes even when they know my background, but because I look white they still feel comfortable doing it. When I was in school I'd sometimes laugh along because I was too scared to speak out but now that I'm older I try and say something. The main thing I notice though is white people being totally clueless and oblivious to what's going on outside of the white bubble. And not really understanding white privilege even if they say they do. The number of white friends I have who literally only have white friends and work colleagues is shocking. And white people in power are more likely to help other white people because they feel more comfortable around them. For example, a white movie producer is more likely to produce a film about white people because they understand their world more. And if they do produce a piece of work by a non-white artist they'll still try and mould it into something they can understand. Racism and unconscious bias go hand in hand.

Is being mixed race a burden or a blessing for you?


Have you felt a struggle with your identity? If so, how did you deal with it and if you are now at peace with who you are, how did you come to a place of self-acceptance?

I struggle more and more as I get older. If I’m honest I feel ashamed to be white. Or to be treated white. Ever since I've been little I've seen my skin colour get me in certain rooms and my mother's get her shut out. Literally in some cases. And I don't feel like I'm white but that's how the world sees me. I have two identities (probably a lot more tbh) the one I feel inside and how the world sees me. And if I'm honest both are confused. A lot of people probably feel that way though. But when I'm sat with family or close friends none of that matters and I just feel like me.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

It will get better.